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Robusters Paint the Town Pink

posted Oct 1, 2012, 8:05 PM by Robusters Website   [ updated Oct 1, 2012, 8:07 PM ]
The Kootenay Robusters have arrived home from the 17th annual Kaiser Permanente International Dragon Boat Festival in San Francisco pleased with their accomplishments.  They took part in five races and, while the team paddled well, it soon became apparent that they weren’t going to win medals.  As the only breast cancer survivor team in the festival (and with an average age of 62) it was unlikely that the team would beat the Amazonian young women in the ultra competitive women’s division. In order to fit in a few more races they also entered the mixed division – which wasn’t much better, since they had to compete against teams with 12 men and 8 women.  There just wasn’t a division in the festival that fit their profile.

Still, the Robusters headed out on the course with the same focus that they bring to every festival, and were soon impressing spectators and other teams with their precision, positive attitude and ironical team cheer “Bust or no bust, we are robust!”

Surprisingly, dragon boat racing as a sport for breast cancer survivors has not reached the same levels of participation in California as in other areas.  Few other paddlers at the San Francisco Festival knew the story of how Dr. Don MacKenzie, of the Sports Medicine Clinic at UBC, recruited a dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors to take part in research on breast cancer surgery and upper body exercise.  That made the Robusters’ presence at the festival even more important since one of the team goals is to raise breast cancer awareness and demonstrate the fact that exercise has a role in cancer prevention as well as in helping survivors return to good health.

As the festival unfolded, it soon became clear that the Robusters were inspiring others, as breast cancer survivors from other teams came to talk to them. As one young woman, just finished her cancer treatment, put it, “I watched your races and thought you looked great, just like a pink ribbon on the water. Now I can’t wait to get back home and start working on setting up a survivor team. If you can do it, I can too!”